The concept of nation

The concept of nation, as it is understood nowadays, will not appear until the beginning of the 19th century, although it is true that the term nations derived from nascor (to be born) had already appeared in the Middle Ages, it was only used to bring together groups of people born in the same place, especially to differentiate university students into groups according to origin. The word nation as we understand it today, equivalent to a certain extent to town, appears with romanticism and it is during the French Revolution when it begins to become popular, a concept closely linked to freedom and equality. Until Napoleon would export it around the world as a standard.

Starting from this introduction, it is observed that the term nation is of recent creation and as we will see below it is extremely confusing since it has no definition or delimitation. For this reason one can link the term to feelings of all kinds and that would go through the whole spectrum, from the most positive to the most negative. In fact, we could say that this term evokes in almost equal parts a feeling of identification or union as of frontal rejection.

From here another problem appears to us, what basis is attributed to this presumed nation. In the same way that some appeal to language, others consider that the pillar is religion, or the territorial border, or race, in a common history… Ernest Renan already in 1882 tried to solve this problem by discarding one by one these factors until establishing that only the collective will to establish a nation was the only common basis in all cases. A statement that would eventually be answered both from sociology and from philosophy.

Overcoming the first vicissitudes we arrive at the concept of nationalism, which according to Hobsbawm in Nations and Nationalisms since 1780, would be defined as a modern ideology based on a collective consciousness shared by all members which is added to a need to establish their own State. From this basis it is clear that all nationalists believe that there is at least one nation, their own. This logic is what leads some to think that humanity is divided into nations and for there to be a world order each nation must correspond to a state. It is observed, therefore, that even if there is no common definition accepted by everyone and that a large part of humans only know that they are part of one, no nationalist will doubt the existence of his own nation, already that the feeling of nationalism often tends to resemble in a great way the belief in God due to its high component of irrationality.

The concept of nation: current applications

This nation defined by nationalists has many of its own characteristics, many unique, which go from a language of its own to identity values ​​and material elements or not, which bring together all those who are part of it. Moreover, in many cases this nation is usually in constant danger of falling apart because of the loss or abandonment of identifying features by its members or because of external threats in the form of other nations who conspire in a vile way against they. That is why it is not strange to see that there are many individuals willing to defend their nation against these threats, risking their lives if necessary since a human life is insignificant in front of the immortal and timeless concept of the homeland.

The national State relies on individuals like these to maintain its unity, using two instruments, the Army which must be in charge of defending political integrity and independence against any external threat and national education, which will avoid internal disintegration by defending the national culture. From there, the feeling of nationalism is exalted so that there comes a point where this nationalism becomes almost a secularized religion.

In some cases indeed, especially in the western part of the globe, the feeling of nationalism has replaced the gods as objects of veneration. In this way, a concept that has a difficult definition in the political sphere has become a contagious feeling that has been spreading around the planet, in different forms, but that in all cases leads to a greater or lesser extent doses of religious naivety in addition to in no way satisfying the hopes that had been placed at the beginning, thus breaking the promises made at first.

The first unfulfilled promise of nationalisms was to end all wars, precisely because of this order it would supposedly appear in the world once all nations had been defined as such since we must not forget the context in which this concept was born of nation, in which it is believed or made to believe that all armed conflicts are the result of illegitimate ambitions of dynastic regimes. At this point we do not need to add much more, since it is undeniable that with nationalism wars have multiplied, they have become more massive, bloodier and in some cases they have even escalated to become in supracontinental conflicts. In addition, new ways of waging war have appeared, such as the guerrilla system and other terms that did not exist before such as conscription or compulsory military service. Also the concept of total war is also born with nationalism, since wars ceased to be a struggle for the control of a border where the population stayed in their land watching only as their governor became one another, to become a conflict in which thousands of people are forced to move from their towns because of these conflicts, conflicts which have also been much more deadly than the previous ones.

Another promise that was never fulfilled would be that of ending oppression, since as we have seen at the beginning this concept of nation was strongly linked to freedom and equality, really then, it was considered that this oppression was only consequence of dynastic empires and that once within the national framework all would be considered equal. A point that obviously could not be further from reality since nationalism has undoubtedly increased the hatred between different sectors of the population, producing from persecutions to genocides more than once, to highlight among others the Armenian genocide by the Turks or anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. In addition to all the episodes of armed violence or not also by national liberation groups such as ETA in the national case or the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, also caused by this appearance of exacerbated nationalisms.

Finally, the last unfulfilled promise that will be highlighted in this article will be the promise of a cultural springtime unprecedented in history. Despite this promise, from the first moment nationalism has created very closed cultural spaces at its borders, creating systems that despise functionality in favor of serving the interests of the nation, a fact that cuts the wings of young people in a clear and obvious way who see their interests being sacrificed in the name of national culture. However, technological progress has not been slowed down and cultural traits are spreading faster and faster despite the attempts of these nations to limit it. Seeing all the problems that have appeared with nationalism, what alternatives are there? Here everyone has their own way of thinking, but at least consider the existence of States that are little more than administrative corporations of a geographical scope without sovereign pretensions, and where democracy loses importance in favor of freedoms and human rights.